According to New York Daily News, the Trump administration's most recent budget proposal could have a devastating effect on 9/11 first responders, as it seeks to reorganize the federal agency responsible for monitoring and overseeing their treatment.
Currently, the World Trade Center Health Program is housed within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. That agency, in turn, is under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control.
Under the 2019 fiscal year budget for NIOSH put forth by the White House, that agency will be carved out of the CDC and placed within the National Institute of Health.
What will happen to the WTC Health Program? It will remain housed within the CDC, which advocates and lawmakers say will negatively impact over 83,000 survivors who count on the program for treating injuries and illnesses resulting from the 9/11 tragedy.
For one thing, NIOSH and the WTC Health Program share many employees — and those workers would move with NIOSH when it gets sliced out of the CDC.
The director of NIOSH, Dr. John Howard, would also move with the agency — meaning he could no longer fulfill his current dual role as administrator of the WTC Health Program.
The potential shifting of resources and manpower will come just as several key contracts within the WTC Health Program — such as those for prescription programs — are up for five-year renewal, prompting concerns that services will be interrupted to some of those suffering from 9/11 illnesses.
U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler, (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-L.I.), who sponsored the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in an effort to have the proposal reversed, saying there were "shocked and disturbed" by the change:
“This proposal directly contradicts the legislation Congress passed just three years ago to renew WTCHP for 75 years within NIOSH. This will unnecessarily put at risk the health of those who have been made ill by 9/11, many of whom are still suffering, and in too many cases still dying, from their injuries 17 years later,” the congressmembers said.
“If you had spoken to us, or anyone with experience in the 9/11 health community, you would have understood that the World Trade Center Health Program is fully integrated within NIOSH and there are many shared staff whose expertise would be lost if the WTCHP is pulled,” the representatives said.
“We also would have explained the amount of progress NIOSH has made in service delivery, all of which would be lost if WTCHP were removed from the institute,” it continued.